Social Development in a Montessori School

In a Montessori school, educators don’t merely teach lessons out of a textbook everyday, like you may see in a traditional school. Many of the lessons that Montessori educators teach are valuable life skills that a child will carry with them for a lifetime. Montessori schools focus on developing every aspect of the child – physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. These elements make up what Dr. Montessori calls the whole child.

We know human beings are social creatures by nature. We not only depend on each other to fulfill our physical needs, but emotional and spiritual as well. The idea of “culture” is based on the myriad of different ways that groups of humans have devised to meet these needs.

In the Montessori classroom, you will notice that social development takes place in many forms. Some of these include:

Mixed Age Groups

Mixed age classrooms are a signature element of a Montessori school because Dr. Montessori believed that children learn from one another. This is proven in the Montessori environment where you will often see an older child happily helping his younger peers and gaining social maturity from being a role model. The younger child may learn new concepts from the older child and as she looks up to the older child, she will begin to see that she too, will be just as capable one day. Growing together is natural, as children instinctively know when to offer help, encouragement, and comfort to those around them. Hence the mixed age group means that children have the opportunity to interact with both older and younger peers, all of who are at varying levels of individual development. The mixed age group provides daily opportunities to practice patience, tolerance, and receiving or offering assistance. Younger children look to the older children with admiration and for inspiration, and in turn, the older children help and teach the younger children.

Mixed age groups are also a contributing factor competition avoidance among children in the classroom. In the structure of a mixed age classroom, children feel less pressure to compete and more motivated to collaborate and assist one another. The social discipline that Montessori observed describes how children spontaneously interact with each other. Children show:

  • Self-controlled and purposeful interactions with others
  • Mutual spontaneous respect
  • A willingness to help others
  • Spontaneous responsiveness to the needs of others
  • Evidence of feelings of benevolence and sympathy towards others in the group
  • A non-competitive attitude

Small Group Lessons

Although the Montessori focus lies in individual progression and many lessons are presented individually to the students, some lessons are presented to students in small groups. These small groups are great for dialogue and encourage children to share their thoughts regarding particular subjects. The safe environment of the small group also makes children feel comfortable expressing novel ideas with their peers. The small group sessions improve a child’s conversational skills and helps them grasp and understand important concepts.

Set Amount of Materials

Too many materials in the classroom could cause clutter and confusion. However, if there is one complete set of materials for the classroom, then the children will benefit from a sense of order. If a child wants to work on something that involves a material already being used by another child, then they will have to respectfully wait their turn. This teaches the child the virtue of patience and provides them with the opportunity for maturity.

Lessons in Grace and Courtesy

Developing the social skills of grace and courtesy is a key component of the Montessori curriculum. In a Montessori environment, children learn how to interact appropriately with each other and with adults through dialogue. Some of these interactions including greeting and hosting guests into the classroom, preparing and sharing snacks with peers, and exercising appropriate mealtime behavior. One of the main values that are taught in a Montessori classroom is respect. By teaching respect for their peers, materials, and themselves, Montessori educators plant a seed of compassion and empathy in the children.

In a Montessori classroom, children learn how to resolve conflicts and issues by making peace with others. This is often done at the “peace table” and achieved through sharing a “peace object” of some kind, such as a rock or a flower, which is passed back and forth as the children acknowledge their feelings and express themselves.

Social Development at MASS

Montessori observed that there were “phases through which social life must pass in the course of its natural unfolding.”

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we have created a rich, well-prepared environment designed to meet the needs of our young children. The classrooms at MASS are carefully constructed to help children understand the world around them. Our educators focus on helping children form a positive self-image and develop respect for all life.

 

 

The Importance of Sensorial Materials in Montessori Preschool

One of the things that set a Montessori preschool apart from normal daycare is the materials that are used in the classroom. In a regular daycare, children are usually given a variety of toys or educational games to keep them entertained throughout the day. In a Montessori preschool, however, the children are provided with unique learning materials that are designed specifically to foster sensorial development.

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children began having sensorial experiences at birth. According to Dr. Montessori’s studies, as children grow up, they explore and learn by interacting with their environment through their senses.   This unique period in a child’s development happens between the ages of birth and six years old. To help children express, classify, and broaden their sensory experiences, Dr. Montessori designed the Sensorial materials.

The purpose of the Sensorial materials is to aid the child in refining the child’s pitch, temperature, and weight and is utilizing language in describing these qualities. These materials are an integral part of developing the whole child — directly building the “mathematical mind” and indirectly preparing for writing.

 

Below are some of the Sensorial materials used in a Montessori preschool.

Visual

  • The Pink Tower, the Brown Stair, and Red Rods are used to develop discrimination of differences in three, two and one dimensions respectively.
  • Cylinder Blocks (Knobbed Cylinders) are used to develop the child’s visual discrimination of size, which prepares the child for later work in math. Handling these knobbed cylinders also indirectly prepares and strengthens a child’s hand for writing. 
  • Knobless Cylinders develop a child’s visual discrimination of gradations of size in a series. The Knobless Cylinders also fine tune a child’s muscle coordination and sharpen concentration skills.
  • The Color Boxes come with matching, as well as gradient style color tablets that the children manipulate in order from darkest to lightest. This helps children identify colors and develop visual discrimination.
  • The Geometric Cabinet includes trays that contain insets of a variety of plane figures, which help children develop visual discrimination of shape as well as learn the names of the various figures.
  • Constructive Triangles are used to form plane figures and help prepare children for geometry by refining discrimination senses.  
  • Binomial and Trinomial Cubes develop a child’s appreciation for the beauty of form in three dimensions. The cubes also indirectly prepare the child for mathematical concepts involving the binomial and trinomial theorems. 

Tactile

Geometric Solids help a child develop the muscular-tactile sense as well as sharpen the visual perception of solid figures. Geometric solids also indirectly prepare a child for geometry and its language.

Touch Tablets, Thermic Tablets, Fabrics and Thermic Bottles develop a child’s tactile senses as they touch and feel varying degrees of roughness, softness, temperature, and texture.

Auditory

Sound Cylinders and Bells develop a child’s auditory sense as they learn to distinguish volume and pitch and become more sensitive to sounds in their environment.

Olfactory and Gustatory

Smelling Bottles and Tasting Bottles allow a child to discriminate one smell from another or one taste from another. The child then applies this knowledge to other smells or tastes in the environment.

Montessori Materials at MASS

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, you will find an extensive collection of Montessori materials. Unlike your average daycare, Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs is focused on enhancing each child’s sensorial experience on a daily basis. We take extra care in providing the most age-appropriate Sensorial materials in each of our classrooms.

 

 

Montessori Learning through Sensorial Work

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that sensorial experiences began at birth. Through their senses, children are able to study their environment. Through sensorial work, children are able to consciously obtain clear information that allows them to make classifications in their environment. These classifications also work as stepping stones to organized intelligence, which leads to the ability to adapt to the environment.

The Importance of Sensorial Work

Sensorial activities in Montessori learning are specifically designed to aid children in discrimination and order, as well as to broaden and refine the senses. Sensorial work with Montessori designed materials helps prepare a child to be logical, aware and perceptive.

The concept of sensorial work was developed by Dr. Montessori long before sensory play was adopted into practice. According to the Montessori philosophy, the child is the “sensorial explorer” and learns to perceive qualities through sensorial experiences.

Sensorial Materials

Montessori materials, like the Pink Tower in the photo above, are designed to aid in visual discrimination by allowing the child to recognize differences in dimension, width, length, and size. There are plenty of Montessori activities that enhance the visual sense, including the Brown Stair, Red Rods, Knobbed Cylinders, and Color Tablets.

The tactile sense is also developed in sensory activities through the use of Touch Tablets and Fabric Feel, while the auditory sense is sharpened through the use of Sound Cylinders and Bells. The olfactory sense, in which a child learns to differentiate smells, is developed through Montessori materials like Scent Bottles, while the gustatory sense, in which a child learns to differentiate tastes, is developed through Food Preparation and food tasting.

At Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs, we know that there is no limit to the amount of knowledge children may obtain during their formative years. Between birth and age 6, we know how important it is to develop a child’s senses. For this reason, we place emphasis on helping children understand the world around them. In the classroom, we implement sensorial work and use the proper activities to develop logic, awareness, and perception.

What is Virtue Education?

In a Montessori school system, our primary focus is the whole child. As part of developing all of the elements of the whole child, the Montessori Method concentrates on educating the human potential. Through character education, we are able to help each child unlock their personal potential. Virtue education allows each child to explore the field of morality and learn to discriminate between good and evil.

What are the Virtues?

Virtues are universal and are recognized by people of all cultures. They are necessary for a child’s well-being and happiness. Once they are learned, they will last the child a lifetime.

We make sure that our students learn the following virtues:

Wisdom, courage, perseverance, honesty, kindness, patience, helpfulness, humility, compassion, hard work, creativity, independence, confidence, respectfulness, grace, courtesy, sociability, responsibility, self-sufficiency, curiosity, joyfulness, gratitude, and service.

All of these virtues help build a child’s character and inspire others around them to be better people.

Developing the Virtues

In The Discovery of the Child, Dr. Maria Montessori wrote “She must acquire a moral alertness which has not hitherto been demanded by any other system, and this is revealed in her tranquility, patience, charity, and humility. Not words, but virtues, are her main qualifications.”

In order to develop these virtues, we expose our children to stories and experiences that model them. We make sure that our guides make it a point to display these virtues on a daily basis, so they serve as role models to the students. We also concentrate on positive activities in order to prevent the formation of negative traits. In a Montessori environment, bad habits such as laziness and disorder are quickly replaced by good qualities such as self-sufficiency and hard work.

Cultivating virtues leads a child to develop a more purposeful life. In Montessori classrooms, students learn virtues like service and helpfulness by participating in practical life activities. Such exercises include teaching children to care for the environment and peer to peer collaboration, in which an older student helps a younger student.

What You Can Do at Home

Understanding that learning doesn’t start and finish in the classroom is essential for Montessori parents who want to support the development of the whole child. Children are learning at all times, so the child’s learning experiences at home and at school should be cohesive. One way to form this cohesion is through communication with your child’s guide.

It is important for you to know when and which virtues are being taught in class. For instance, if you find out from your child’s guide that honesty is being covered in class next week, you should find ways to incorporate practicing honesty at home also.

Role play is a great way to do this.  Explain situations that your child can easily understand and give your child various options of choices they could make in that situation.  Be sure to provide some choices that emphasize honesty more than others. Then discuss your child’s choices, and the possible consequences of each choice, as well as why it’s important to be honest both at home and in school.

Practical Life – Part 2

Today we continue our series exploring the Practical Life area of the Montessori classroom, focusing in this post on the ways in which Practical Life skills benefit other curriculum areas. 

Many of the exercises in the Practical Life area are preparation exercises of Sensorial works. The exercises help to fine tune the development of the child’s senses. Many uses of the five senses occur in the Practical Life area: sound, sight, and touch are used in equipment-bases activities, such as bean scooping; smelling and tasting are involved in the preparation of food.

Practical Life not only develops the child’s senses and teaches real life skills, but sets the basic foundation for other areas to come. For example, understanding size, weight, and equal distribution are skills which are vital when the child is introduced to the Math area of the classroom.

Perhaps the most significant is the development of the pincer grip, which allows the child to correctly grip a pencil and begin working in the Language area.

Technology in the Classroom: What Teachers Think About the Latest Trends

Edudemic shares an interesting perspective on current developments in the classroom, including the incorporation of various forms of technology – how teachers feel about the top 10 current educational trends. European and North American teachers were polled by Menco Platform, social knowledge-sharing platform, to see which trends were exciting and which were more hype than substance for classroom leaders. The results paint an interesting picture of the future of technology and its role in the classroom.

Top 10 Educational Trends

What Is Education For?

Montessori parents and friends Vina Kay (a racial justice activist, writer, and filmmaker) and Jan Selby (an Emmy award-winning documentary producer and director), explore this question in their documentary, Building the Pink Tower. From her own children’s Montessori experiences, Kay remembered the beauty, peacefulness and purpose of everything in the Montessori environment. As she writes in a recent article:

I am a parent who learned from my own children what education can be.

Kay and Selby see Montessori as the vehicle to independence, allowing each person to reach their potential by following their personal passions. Their goal in making the documentary is to share with the world the potential of Montessori to change the conversation and start a movement toward truly meaningful education. Montessori is a buzzword in today’s talk about education reform – peaceful education based on respect and kindness. Couldn’t we all use a little more kindness in this world?

Please enjoy the trailer. We hope to show the documentary at our school in the future.

A Response to the Common Core Standards

The best schools are based on excellent classroom practices, have an established pedagogy, and focus on personalized teaching and learning. Montessori monitors the child’s progress throughout the year; it is not just about the end of the year assessment. Those opposed to the Common Core Standards refer to our children as the newest “guinea pigs” in education. In contrast, the first Montessori classroom was opened in 1907 and its philosophy has not changed. Currently there are over 30,000 Montessori school worldwide.

Diane Ravitch was the former Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander during the George W. Bush administration. She was responsible for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Dept. of Education. She led the the federal effort to promote voluntary state and national academic standards. Read her thoughts on the Common Core Standards.

Google Founders Talk Montessori

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin share with Barbara Walters what they believe was the foundation for their innovative thinking – the Montessori environment.